Mass Media Exclusive! Most Americans Under-represented by Mass Media?

        photo by Cappixx

I live in the USA. While Americans like to believe they tolerate diversity, my experience has been that in practice, Americans are exactly the opposite of tolerant. In fact, I would dare to say that most Americans are marginalized, and we’re particularly marginalized by our own mass media which is controlled primarily by a few large corporations. Because those corporations are run by affluent, white males (who are actually a minority in this country,) the majority of Americans remain under-represented in our media.

Poor people and homeless people are especially marginalized. In fact, I often think that people in other countries who watch American television and films probably believe that all Americans are rich. American media makes it appear that poor people don’t exist.  Rarely does one see a film or TV show that stars a poor, black female character who takes the bus to work and comes home to a tiny, one-room apartment, who can only afford Ramon noodles for dinner, who cannot afford to attend college and who is told she needs a medical treatment but can’t afford it and becomes severely ill because of it. There was an old TV show called “The Honeymooners” which featured characters who lived in tiny, drab apartments and who couldn’t afford luxuries. But that show seems to have been an anomaly in American television.

            photo by Cappixx

Americans have become very materialistic and money-focused, and our media seems to be encouraging that ethos as it helps the advertising industry which supports our media to make money. What many people don’t realize is that the “customer” that the TV/radio/ newspaper/film industry needs to please is not the viewer but it is the advertisers. The advertisers pay the money that keeps the TV/radio/film/newspaper/magazine industries in business–not the viewer. The viewer is the customer of the company that’s being advertised on TV, not of the TV show itself. TV shows are produced to please the advertisers. (Of course, they want viewers but only so they can tell the advertisers that their ads will be seen by consumers with money to spend.) Same is true, sadly, of magazines, radio programs, even newspapers, to an extent (though I do think newspapers remain more news-focused and less disconnected from the average American.) This is why many of us Americans are marginalized and not represented at all by our media.

Blacks (people of color) who are largely kept in poverty, women, disabled people and people over 55 are also underrepresented by mass media.  The exception is news and political commentary which is usually dominated by older, white men. (Older women are rarely seen and blacks of either gender are noticeably rare in mainstream media political discussion.)

American media is decidedly youth-focused. A younger generation has more disposable income and is more easily influenced by advertising. The elderly, who often are retired or working part time, if working at all, tend to acquire less money and fewer material things. Since they aren’t contributing to a materialistic society by making and spending money, they aren’t the best consumers for the advertisers and so are ignored by our media.

American media is also white-male focused. Of course, white males have most of the money and, therefore, are best able to buy the products advertised. As I mentioned, this is particularly true of political commentary and news which is mostly dominated by older, white males.

Women and minorities have a tougher time finding high-paying jobs and are typically hired for low-wage, dead-end positions, so we aren’t always the best consumers–unless we are frightened into buying. While there are a lot of advertisements aimed at women, they seem to thrive on making women feel unsafe and insecure, and, therefore, marginalized. We women are particularly supposed to feel bad about our physical appearance. We are told we must remain youthful, slim and with perfect skin and bodies. In order to do that, we must buy their advertised products, of course. So white women do find some roles in mass media but usually stereotyped roles–young, perfect in appearance, appendages to men and, therefore, good consumers. Only the women who buy the skin creams, hair products, etc., who are able to appear “perfect” are allowed on the TV or film screen.

    photo by Cappixx

While there are some white women and a few black actors, most TV programs and films are produced, written and directed by white males. Comedy sitcoms often do star some white women comedians, but few blacks, Hispanics, and almost no Native Americans. Producers, writers, directors, and those involved in the control of the content and programming remain mostly white male. Even “liberal” programs such as the Colbert Report and the Daily Show were produced, directed and written by mostly white men. Consequently, portrayals of women and minorities are largely stereotyped.

I believe that written media–magazines and newspapers–are more inclusive but they are also dying here in the USA. Fewer people take the time pick them up and read them. Most people are on the Internet or watching TV.

The Internet, of course, is more inclusive, and this is where there is some hope for positive change. Just about anyone can create a podcast or videocast for the Internet. I often watch Democracy Now, the Sane Progressive and Abby Martin’s Empire Files online– shows hosted by women, albeit white women. I’ve recently discovered “LTMB–Let the Madness Begin,” a progressive political Youtube talk show which is hosted by two black men.

While Internet programming, including most Youtube channels, appears to still be dominated by white men, that is changing, and I think there is hope that more women and minorities and people from diverse backgrounds will create educational, newsworthy programming online. But I do not see hope that mainstream media–television, radio, major newspapers and magazines–will become more inclusive. As long as it is funded by advertising, I can’t see hope for any change there.

Oh, you’re being “negative” again! Boo, you Gloomy Gus! Boo, you Debbie Downer, you!

photo by Cappixx

Look, I’m just being realistic. As long as we have a money-focused, unregulated capitalist society, then those who have the most money and the most stuff will win friends and influence people. Want that to change? Then face it. We can work out ways to change it next… But we have to face the reality of it first.

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